One thing that had me stumped for a bit was connecting the HD PVR to the Xbox 360. After a successful test with my cable box, all I got was a black screen with the console. When I took the component cables out from the HD PVR and plugged it back into the TV, the picture came up fine. It took me about ten minutes but I checked the Xbox 360 setting and sure enough it was set at 1080p. Since the HD PVR can only take up to a 1080i connection, it wasn't able to detect the signal from the Xbox 360. After changing to 720p I finally was able to get sound and picture on the computer and through the pass through of the HD PVR. If you're going to connect the HD PVR to the PlayStation 3, you might want to take that into account as well and lower the resolution to fit the HD PVR specifications.
I did a few recordings from my cable box using the component outs as well as the Xbox 360. As you can see, my dual core Intel CPU held steady at around 60% CPU usage which is pretty good considering it's a laptop CPU. The several spikes you see is me opening up a screenshot capture program. My slower laptop did have some stuttering here and there during the preview but it did not affect the recording at all. While the video below from my cable box recording is compressed some through YouTube's process, I can say the picture quality is damn good in my personal opinion. Five minutes worth of 720p video equated to about 300MB of space depending on how much was happening. Multiply that into an hour show and you'll need roughly 4GB per hour of storage. This is on the default settings so the file size will vary according to the bit rate you set for the recordings. The unit also stayed relatively cool throughout the process. Some of the earlier HD PVR units suffered from overheating but the one that I received experienced no such problem with I am thankful for.
When recording, you'll have the option between these formats:
- .TS, which is a generic 'transport stream' compatible with many digital media players
- .M2TS, which is compatible with the Sony Playstation3
- .MP4, which is compatible with the XBox360
From Hauppauge's website: "The .TS and .M2TS files are AVCHD compatible, and can be used to burn Blu-ray compatible disk recordings. These files can be burned onto a standard DVD+R or DVD+RW disk for playback in a Blu-ray disk player using the included Arcsoft TME Disk Create application. Approximately 2 hours of HD TV recorded at 5Mbits/sec can be put onto a standard DVD+R or DVD+RW disk. The included TME Media Converter program may also be used to convert the .TS file to other formats compatible for playback on an iPhone and iPod." I personally use other programs to do the transcoding to other formats but I did try out the ArcSoft program was able to successfully take my test recordings into a smaller format for my Windows Mobile phone. The files were smaller and played well on my Touch Pro phone so it was good of Hauppauge to include this for those that don't have another option.
In Windows 7, I was able to play the files natively with Windows Media Player. On the laptop I used to record, full screen video played flawlessly with constant CPU usage of 80%. Sure you probably won't want to do anything else but on a modest machine like my laptop it's nice to know that any file recorded will be easily playable without slowdowns.
As a diehard Windows Media Center user, one of the things I really wanted the HD PVR for was to record high definition content from my cable company. Currently, there's no easy way to make Windows Media Center think of the HD PVR as another tuner. But, through some hacks and work arounds this can be done and done very successfully. You'll need a cable box with component outs of course and you'll also have to use the included IR blaster to change channels. Hauppauge actually has a link to DVB Link software that will let you use the HD PVR as a native tuner in one of the Microsoft Media Center editions but I would like to see Hauppauge come out with native support for Windows 7. DVBLink will set you back $30 so it's not too bad and probably worth it if you want a less hassle way to get it to work with your Vista or Windows 7 Media Center. Let's hope they do. MythTV does support HD PVR natively so you can use it with it without any problems.
Priced at around $250, the Hauppauge HD PVR comes in at a great price for the ability to record up to 1080i. While there are more expensive solutions out there, I really like the portability factor of the HD PVR and the ease of operation in the software on my end. The recordings turned out great from both my Xbox 360 and cable HD DVR. With the latest drivers allowing 5.1 audio, you can record and watch HD shows with surround sound as well as archive them. I don't know if we'll ever see a setup using HDMI or if it is possible with the restrictions placed on the technology but that would be a great next step for the next iteration of the device. I'd also like the next one to be able to record 1080p video as well but for now, I really like the HD PVR and what it has to offer. There hasn't been a Hauppauge product that I've used that's disappointed me and this is another one that I'm extremely happy with. You'll be seeing many videos of games coming from Gaming Nexus from this device as that's how happy I am with how well it performs.
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While it won't do 1080P, I'm really happy with the affordable solution Hauppauge has put out for recording HD video. Yes you have to use components but it's a small price to pay to be able to archive shows off of a DVR or record video from an Xbox 360 or PS3.
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